East Hawaii News

Council to Discuss Mayor, pCard Bill

September 14, 2015, 12:28 PM HST
* Updated September 14, 1:14 PM
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The Hawai’i County Council will be discussing a resolution Wednesday that would reprimand the mayor for using his government-purchasing card for personal use.

According to the resolution, sponsored by Kohala Councilwoman Margaret Wille, Hawai’i County Mayor Billy Kenoi used his county pCard between 2009 and 2013 to purchase items and services for personal use, including charges at hostess bars and purchases for a surfboard and a bicycle.

Resolution 272 states, “The routine use of the pCard for personal purchases over several years is not merely a matter of unintended mistakes or oversight.”

According to the resolution, “remaining neutral on this matter may give the impression that the County Council is willing to overlook the Mayor’s use of the pCard for personal purchases.”

After a Big Island newspaper broke the story about Kenoi’s pCard use earlier this year, numerous residents expressed their disapproval of what happened. Legislative Auditor Bonnie Nims also conducted an audit of the pCard program as a response.

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The audit revealed there were 164 transactions last year totaling almost $30,000 that did not follow county policy, had questionable public purpose, and may have violated state law. The audit also revealed there were 145 transactions from the Hawai’i County Mayor’s Office that may have violated county policy or state law and that the Hawai’i County Department of Liquor Control might have also made questionable pCard purchases.

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Currently, the State Attorney General has opened a criminal investigation related to the Kenoi’s pCard use. A resident also submitted a petition to the Hawai’i County Board of Ethics alleging that Kenoi violated the Code of Ethics.

The Board of Ethics considered the petition but deferred it for review until after the Department of the Attorney General concludes its investigation and determination.

A copy of the resolution, if passed, would go to the Mayor’s office, the Board of Ethics and the county finance director.

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Also on the agenda for the council on Wednesday is Puna Councilman Greggor Ilagan’s proposed pCard bill.

Bill 78 amends the Hawai’i County Code relating to travel and other expenses to require that an exception to prohibited expenditures may only be permitted if a written request showing the expenditure would be a for a public purpose is approved by the Mayor for requests made by employees or officers of the Executive Branch, or the Council Chair for requests made by employees or officers of the Legislative Branch.

An earlier version of the bill was postponed for clarification.

The Hawai’i County Council will meet at 9 a.m. Wednesday at the West Hawai’i Civic Center in Kona.

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